Folino v. Greenwich Twp.
862 A.2d 176 (Pa. Cmwlth. 2004)
A developer filed a sketch plan with the township for a proposed development. The Township Planning Commission rejected the sketch plan because it did not provide for mixed residential-commercial uses, as was specified for the “Village District.” Subsequently, the developer simultaneously filed for declaratory judgment and a land use appeal. After the developer filed, the Board of Supervisors adopted a motion directing the Township not to accept any preliminary plans from the developer because legal actions were pending. After the Board’s refusal to accept the developer’s plans, the Board adopted amendments to the zoning ordinance that had more requirements for the Village District than the previous ordinance. Subsequently, the trial court vacated the Planning Commission’s rejection of the sketch plan and ordered the Board to review the all of the developer’s future submissions. The Board then reviewed the submitted plan and rejected it because it did not meet the level of specificity required under the amended ordinance.
The developer appealed the rejection claiming that the Board should have reviewed the plan pursuant to the previous ordinance under Section 508 of the MPC, 53 P.S. § 10508(4), because it states that once an application is properly filed for the approval of a subdivision, no zoning amendment can affect the plan while approval or disapproval is pending. The developer argued that the sketch plan should be treated as part of the preliminary plan. The question presented to the Court was whether or not the developer properly filed the application.
The Township argued that Section 508 did not apply to sketch plans, and they further argued that the developer failed to submit a preliminary plan until after the amendments had been adopted. However, the developer argued that a sketch plan was adequate because the purpose of Section 508 was to prevent a township from amending its ordinance after it learned of a developer’s plans.
The Court agreed with the Township that the preliminary and sketch plans are distinct stages in applying for approval of a subdivision plan. The Court also noted that Section 303 of the Township’s ordinance provides that a sketch plan is a “submission for discussion” and does not constitute an “official submission of a plan.” Accordingly, the Court preliminarily concluded that the Township acted properly in reviewing the plan under the new ordinance. However, the Court stated that Township abused its discretion when it refused to consider the developer’s preliminary plan due to the pending litigation. Because the developer attempted to initiate the plan approval process before the amendments were passed, the Court held that the plan must be reviewed pursuant to the prior ordinance.
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